Malnourished? Eat Rats, Says Indian Bureaucrat

by Gopalan on Aug 26 2008 1:23 PM

An Indian bureaucrat has come up with an unorthodox solution to malnourishment. Eat rats, he says, though his suggestion seems directed at the low caste poor.

Whether Marie Antoinette famously suggested cakes for the poor if they didn’t have bread is still being debated on.

But a senior official of Bihar in northern India, one of the most backward states, has told reporters openly that one way out for the long-suffering low caste poor of Musahars is rats.

After more than sixty years of independence, they remain stubbornly at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Less than one percent of the 2.3 million Musahars in Bihar are literate and 98% of them are landless.

Even otherwise the state is appallingly backward. The current inflation raging across the country has inevitably hit hard the poor.

So Vijay Prakash, Principal Secretary of the state's Welfare Department, is offering a low cost solution – rats!

Eating rats has twin advantages, he points out helpfully: “First, we can save about half of our food grain stocks by catching and eating rats and, secondly, we can improve the economic condition of the Musahar community," he told the BBC.

In a country where almost 50 per cent of food grain stocks are eaten away by the rodents, the Musahar intervention might help.

Well, doesn’t it sound a bit repulsive? Oh, well, no, Mushars have been traditional rat-eaters.

Besides Prakash has done some research and claims rat is a popular food item in some parts of Bihar, where it is known at roadside hotels by the name of "patal-bageri".

Rat meat is widely popular in Thailand and France and it is a protein-enriched food.

"Rats have almost no bones and are quite rich in nutrition. People at large don't know this cuisine fact, but gradually they are catching up," he pours out enthusiastically.

Besides he has prepared a slew of mouth-watering recipes and is willing to share his rat secrets with chefs across the state. He would like to encourage rat-farming in a big way.

The maverick official does catch headlines off and on, but then not many seem to take him seriously. Anyway the welfare department he is heading is fairly low in hierarchy and doesn’t command much of a clout in the scheme of things.

But he remains undeterred, going by reports. For he is now turning his attention to snakes.

Prakash wants to promote snake-catching as their venom commands a good price in the market.

From rats to snake is indeed an interesting transition.